If you’re in the latter half of your draft and can’t see your team’s flaws, you’re either in a shallow league, pulling off one helluva draft, or aren’t paying enough attention to your categorical strengths and weaknesses. Most of us, however, will notice the categories that appear to be dragging our teams down. While some of these areas are easier to make up for in the later rounds than others, there are plenty of lower-rung fantasy players who can help fill in the gaps. Here’s an overview of some players (listed in no particular order) who will be found in the later rounds of your drafts and can help you out in the specified areas.
George Hill (G â€“ Spurs): Hill proved himself to be a great all-around fantasy asset last season, especially as a fill-in for Tony Parker â€“ he averaged 15.3 points in 43 games in the Spurs’ starting lineup. While his spot in the rotation this season is a bit difficult to gauge, what we can safely bank on is the fact that Hill figures to be groomed to eventually take over the Spurs’ backcourt. It’s possible that Hill will nab the starting SG job, with Manu Ginobili taking his familiar sixth-man role. With Parker and Ginobili liable to rack up a handful of DNPs, Hill seems poised to put on a strong encore showing and will help shore up your squad’s points in a hurry.
Charlie Villanueva (F â€“ Pistons): His clunker last season guarantees that he’ll be left to the late rounds of most drafts, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, Villanueva is a versatile big man who has an easy time putting up 15+ points when given around 30 minutes of playing time. With trade murmurs plaguing the Pistons, Villanueva could find himself with more consistent minutes if he’s dealt to a team with an open forward spot or if Tayshaun Prince is dealt away. Regardless, the frontcourt in Detroit is shallow enough to give Villanueva opportunities to make up for his fat contract.
Michael Beasley (F â€“ Timberwolves): He’s not the most appealing fantasy player, thanks to a mostly one-dimensional game, but what fantasy owners can count on from Beasley is points. In his first two years in the NBA, he’s averaged 14.3 points in 27:18 per game. He’ll have to compete for minutes with Kevin Love and Wesley Johnson, but it’s not difficult to imagine that Beasley will see playing time around that neighborhood this season, and 14 or 15 points from a player you can probably nab in the last four rounds of your drafts isn’t shabby.
Leandro Barbosa (G â€“ Raptors): Provided he remains healthy this season, Barbosa should continue being the scoring machine he was in Phoenix. He’s shown that all it takes is around 25 minutes for him to slap 14 points on the scoreboard, and his main competition for minutes is the still-unproven DeMar DeRozan.
Mike Miller (G/F â€“ Heat): It’s clear that he was brought on board to be the Heat’s sharpshooter, and on a team with two of the best drivers in the League, not to mention a big man that draws attention down low, Miller appears set to deliver 2+ threes per game for his fantasy owners. There are worse ways to go than to spend a late-round pick on a player who has a good shot at being a top-five three-point maker and, consequently, a steady starter for your fantasy crew this season.
J.R. Smith (G/F â€“ Nuggets): Since he landed in Denver four seasons ago, Smith hasn’t averaged fewer than 2.1 threes per game. The fact that he has never played more than 28 minutes a game during that time makes that feat even more impressive. He isn’t the most consistent player, but he’s capable of easily hitting 9+ threes in any given week. Getting a top-10 three-point maker in round 10? Sounds good to me.
Channing Frye (F/C â€“ Suns): After averaging just 0.2 threes per game in 2008-09, Frye unleashed 2.1 threes per game last season in Phoenix. The bad news is that he’ll probably come off the bench for the Suns this season. The good news is that he’ll be available in the last four rounds of most drafts and makes for a good stopgap player should you find yourself matched up against an opponent’s fantasy squad that’s strong in threes.
Raja Bell (SG â€“ Jazz): He only played six games last season, but Bell is back in Utah, where he’ll find himself with an opportunity to surge back into fantasy relevance. He’s always been a good three-point shooter and is set to take the role that Kyle Korver left behind. With a strong low-post presence in Al Jefferson and a very capable distributor in Deron Williams, Bell could be set to knock down a ton of triples in 2010-11.
Drew Gooden (F/C â€“ Bucks): He had a surprisingly solid run for the Clippers last season and appears set to be the starting power forward in Milwaukee this season. In his eight-year career, Gooden has averaged 7.9 rebounds in 27:41 per game. With Andrew Bogut still hindered by his arm, Gooden shouldn’t have much trouble finding that kind of playing time for the Bucks this season and should be able to notch around 8-9 rebounds per game on a nightly basis.
Emeka Okafor (C â€“ Hornets): The man has his flaws but no one can argue with his strengths, especially his rebounding. Okafor has averaged 10.3 rebounds in his six-year career and not much more needs to be said here, besides the fact that he’ll fall to rounds 10-11 of most drafts, making him a supremely cheap source of rebounds.
DeJuan Blair (F/C â€“ Spurs): In 23 outings as a starter, Blair grabbed 8.4 rebounds in fewer than 24 minutes per game. He’s nowhere near ready to take the torch from Tim Duncan, but with a center spot that is far from solidified, Blair should earn more minutes and be an even better source of rebounding this season.
Andris Biedrins (C â€“ Warriors): After enduring a painfully forgettable season, Biedrins is returning to a team that has brought on another solid rebounder in David Lee. While that doesn’t exactly bode well for his chances at a comeback season, it’s worth looking at the flip side: Biedrins is a solid rebounder himself (8.2 rebounds in about 24 minutes during his six years in the NBA) and if he can stay healthy this year, he could affect Lee’s numbers more than Lee affects his.
Jose Calderon (PG â€“ Raptors): Calderon’s stock plummeted last season, but that doesn’t mean he’s a complete waste of a fantasy draft pick. While his once-strong free-throw shooting appears to have died from a mysterious disease, he remains a decent source of assists (6.6 per game in his five-year career), especially given his projected availability in rounds 9-11.
Mike Conley (PG â€“ Grizzlies): He just can’t seem to break through, can he? He still has his starting gig in Memphis, which means that he should be good for around five assists per game. That’s not too shabby considering his probable availability in the last two rounds of most drafts.
Beno Udrih (PG â€“ Kings): Udrih started and finished last season strong and averaged 6.0 assists in 41 games as a starter. While his performance might’ve been a bit of a fluke, taking a gamble with one of your last three picks on Udrih could be a steal for your team, especially if he cements his starting job.
Tony Parker (PG â€“ Spurs): It might be surprising to see Parker’s name absent from the list of the Top 101 fantasy players this season, but his stats just don’t offer enough to make him worth anything more than a ninth- or tenth-round pick, at best. Given that draft position, his 5.5+ assists are a bargain.
Mario Chalmers (PG â€“ Heat): During his first two seasons in the League, Chalmers has averaged 1.6 steals in 28:36 per game. He’s set to start games as the Heat’s point guard of choice, so there’s no reason to expect that his minutes or steals should shift much from those figures. Not bad for someone who can be had in the final round.
Ronnie Brewer (SG â€“ Bulls): He seemed to vanish into thin air in 2009-10, thanks in part to a nagging hamstring injury that took him out of the latter portion of the season. But Brewer has a fresh start in Chicago and seems poised to start at SG. He’s averaged 1.5 steals in 26:11 per game in his young four-year NBA career, and a backcourt of Brewer and the potentially-defensively-improved Derrick Rose could cause more than a few opposing point guards to fumble the ball every now and then.
Andrei Kirilenko (F â€“ Jazz): AK-47 appears on track to start the season healthier than he’s been in quite some time. With Carlos Boozer out of Utah, Kirilenko should receive plenty of playing time at both forward spots, and as a perennial threat to average 1.5 steals, he should come as a cheap source of those (and blocks) in rounds 8-10.
Tony Allen (G/F â€“ Grizzlies): In his six-year career, Allen has averaged a steal while only playing 18:23 per game. Now that he’s out of Boston and on a Grizzlies squad that might enable him to play closer to 25+ minutes per game, this could be the season when Allen asserts himself as a consistent fantasy asset, albeit a mildly appealing one. He’ll be available in the last round but might be able to offer 1.5 steals per game for the owner that is willing to roll the dice on him.
Chris Andersen (F/C â€“ Nuggets): The Birdman is known for three things: his tats, his hair and his blocking ability. In his last two seasons with the Nuggets, Andersen has averaged 2.2 blocks in just 21:27 per game. But there’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that Kenyon Martin is expected to miss a lot of time this season, which opens up minutes for Andersen. The bad news is that Andersen, who had surgery on his left ring finger and his right knee this summer, stands a chance of missing the start of the season. He might require some patience, but his crazy blocking numbers can’t be denied.
JaVale McGee (F/C â€“ Wizards): Despite playing just 16:06 per game last season, McGee managed to average 1.7 blocks (a whopping 5.0 blocks per 48 minutes), putting him at No. 12 on the list of shot-blockers in 2009-10. With a starting job in hand, McGee should have no problem duplicating that performance at worst, and improving to around three blocks per game at best. He should be available around rounds 10-11, but don’t be surprised to see optimistic owners snatch him up earlier than that.
Greg Oden (C â€“ Trail Blazers): In the 21 games he played last season, the man o’ glass averaged 2.3 blocks per game, third best in the NBA behind Dwight Howard and Bogut. There’s no question that Oden is a fantasy stud when he’s on the floor â€“ the question is how early are you willing to take him, if at all? Rounds 10-11 sound reasonable.
Serge Ibaka (C â€“ Thunder): The kid from Congo averaged 1.3 blocks in just 18:06 per game in 2009-10, and appears set to seriously compete for the starting-center job in Oklahoma City this season â€“ especially with Nenad Krstic throwing haymakers and chairs. This makes him something of a sleeper and a very appealing late-round source of blocks.
Throughout the season, be sure to leave your questions, comments, concerns, trade offers, roster problems and more in the comments below.
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